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At the ATM: Ways to Minimize Fees and Maximize Security, Pt. I

Many depositors who need cash often turn to automated teller machines (ATMs) because of the convenience. But that convenience can come with costs. Here are four things to keep in mind at the ATM so that the cash coming out of your account goes into  your pocket.

  1. Know which ATMs you can use for free. For many people, the availability and cost of ATMs are big reasons why they choose one bank over another. Generally, you can use your own financial institution's ATMs without incurring fees. Your institution may also be part of a larger, no-fee ATM network. Talk to a bank representative to learn more or visit your institution's website to search for its ATMs.
  1. If you cannot use a fee-free ATM in your bank's network, know that fees can vary. By law, the fee that the operator of an ATM may charge for a withdrawal or other transaction must be disclosed on the screen of the machine or on a printout so that you can cancel the transaction before paying any fees. These charges can vary widely, so consider finding another ATM if the fee is larger than you expect. In addition to incurring fees from the ATM operator, you may be charged a fee by your bank for using a machine that's not within its ATM network.
  1. Consider other ways to keep ATM fees down. If you anticipate needing cash for multiple reasons, withdrawing more money at one time (such as $100 or $200 instead of $20 or $40) can mean fewer trips to the ATM and saving on transaction fees. Using your debit card to get "cash back" from a merchant at checkout (such as a grocery store) for no fee is another option. While the amounts may seem small, reducing or eliminating ATM fees can result in significant savings over time.
  1. Guard against overdrafts, which can be costly. Overdrafts can occur if you withdraw more money than you have available in your account or if the new balance in your account won't be enough to cover a future, pre-arranged withdrawal, such as a payment for a recurring bill. You can avoid overdrafts by keeping an up-to-date record of your account balance and the scheduled transactions to come. Something as simple as a paper-based log or an app on a smartphone can help.